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Inside chef Florence Knight’s spectacular new Clerkenwell restaurant, Sessions Arts Club
Mackerel at Sessions Arts Club
Michaël Protin

The 38 Essential Restaurants in London

Eater’s recommended restaurants in London, from the freshest seafood to the smokiest, succulent jerk this summer

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Mackerel at Sessions Arts Club
| Michaël Protin

The Eater 38 hopes to answer any question that begins, “Can you recommend a restaurant?” It’s a curated list that covers the entire city, spanning numerous cuisines, neighbourhoods, and price points. It’s a list that tells the story of the London food scene: It documents the dumplings, Sunday roasts, tacos, pizza, sinasir, rarebits, udon noodles, pepper pot, and more: All that which makes London one of the best and most diverse places to eat in the world.

The Eater London 38 is slowly beginning to reflect the state of “new normal” under which the city has been operating since the new year — with new restaurants making their mark and old restaurants having found their pre-pandemic groove once more. The list will continue to showcase a mix of over three dozen restaurants, which have all done outstanding things in extraordinary times, restaurants which have emerged, survived, thrived, and continued to enrich the city and its food culture as it gets back on its feet and emerges from two years of turmoil.

A monthly updated primer to the best new restaurants in London complements this guide. Please share all tips, ideas, and suggestions with Eater editors by contacting us here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Singburi

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Chef Sirichai Kularbwong is one of the capital’s best cooks. Dishes such as pad thai, wok-fried morning glory with garlic and fish sauce, and fiery, acidic tom yums are available, but look to the blackboard menu for the restaurant’s hits — and never miss the moo krob, twice-fried pork with garlic, basil, and chilli, one of the city’s most accomplished dishes. Singburi’s small and welcoming dining room has now reopened, but its takeaway, when ordered in quantity, has all the gravitas and reverence of any London splurge.

Singburi’s famous yellow and green sign
Singburi’s famous yellow and green sign
Signburi/Instagram

Esters is a cafe and a brunch location that, out of principle, does not serve avocado. Chef Jack Lloyd-Jones might scatter some herbs and nutritional yeast over poached eggs, whipped cod’s roe, broad beans, and buckwheat, or serve a sweet corn soup with nectarine, curry leaf, and crème fraiche. Saturdays bring a meat-for-breakfast policy that eschews bacon for confit duck, lamb shoulder, or pork belly. A signature miso and white chocolate cookie, the creation of co-owner Nia Burr, is reason enough to visit. So too are coffees made with the same care and precision as the food, and house drinking vinegars and sodas in Technicolor hues.

Bake Street

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This small Stoke Newington cafe seriously over-delivers, preparing some of London’s best American diner-style smashburgers, Nashville hots, playful samosas, and the inimitable chicken makhani sandwich come the weekend, with a solid core menu for weekday visitors. Its sweet offering isn’t half-bad either; do not miss the ingenious crème brûlée cookie developed by pastry chef Chloe-Rose Crabtree from a recipe by Los Angeles’s Dough and Arrow, or the seasonal ice cream from Crabtree and co-founder Feroz Gajia in warmer months.

NB: One of Bake Street’s patrons, Feroz Gajia, who is also a freelance food writer, restaurant consultant, and “chicken hypebeast,” has contributed to Eater London’s 5 to Try and Best Dishes columns.

Bake Street’s chicken makhani bun
Bake Street’s fried chicken with makhani sauce, American cheese, and coriander chutney on brioche.
Adam Coghlan

Xi'an Impression London

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Wei Guirong’s original joint venture, Xi’an Impression by the Emirates Stadium in Highbury, is a tiny caff-like restaurant which has rightly earned cult status among lovers of regional Chinese food. As at Guirong’s solo restaurant, Master Wei, the focus is on the region’s flour-foods, mianshi: peerless biang biang noodle dishes, with vegetables or beef and hot chilli oil; fine liang pi, cold skin noodles with a refreshing, umami-rich dressing, and the chef’s inimitable burgers with a cumin-spiced beef or pork filling.

hand-pulled noodles at xi’an impression, a classic London restaurant
Xi’an Impression’s biang biang noodles.
Xi’an Impression/Instagram

Westerns Laundry

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Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell’s Westerns Laundry (the pair also oversees Primeur, the various Jolenes, and Big Jo) is one of London’s best seafood restaurants, a notable champion of English and especially Cornish suppliers. It’s still serving glorious plates like fideo pasta rich with cuttlefish, squid ink, and aioli; monkfish friggitelli and mojo verde; and John Dory, peas, braised gem lettuce, and pancetta. A covered terrace and stellar wine list, with low-intervention and classic options, add to the reasons to visit this outstanding warmly lit and carefully designed Holloway restaurant.

Best seafood restaurants in London: Prawns, cuttlefish, and natural wine at Westerns Laundry, one of the best restaurants in Islington
Prawns, cuttlefish, and natural wine at Westerns Laundry.
Patricia Niven

Mangal 2

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Mangal 2 is probably Dalston’s most famous restaurant, preparing excellent Turkish food from a historic ocakbaşı — grilled chicken, lamb, and quail kebabs, pickled chillies, and a classic grilled onion, sumac, and pomegranate molasses salad. Ferhat Dirik, the charismatic general manager and son of the restaurant’s founder, has run the room with expert ease and humour for over a decade. Now, he’s been joined in the kitchen by his brother Sertac who’s brought verve and low-intervention wines; together they have reinvented and modernised one of east London’s most iconic, reliable, and fun restaurants.

Sertaç Dirik, right, at Mangal 2, east London
Sertaç Dirik, right, at Mangal 2, in Dalston.
Michaël Protin

Trullo’s elegant dining room and simple, seasonal food  makes it one of London’s best Italian restaurants and one of its finest neighbourhood restaurants. Dark wood, low lighting, white tablecloths, and straightforward plating make Trullo decidedly anti-Instagram. Its spiritual parents are the two most important restaurants of a generation, the River Cafe and St. John, so dishes marry Italian traditions with British (and Italian) ingredients — fashioned into antipasti, fresh pastas, and secondi, dishes which often do a little time on the charcoal grill. Where sister site Padella is cheaper, faster, and increasingly difficult to get into, Trullo, which offers the same signature beef shin pappardelle and other Padella hits, is more of a grown-up place to eat and relax. A largely Italian (and natural-leaning) wine list is just as considered as everything else.

Trullo, in Highbury & Islington, is one of London’s best Italian restaurants
Lemon tart at Trullo
Trullo [Official Photo]

F.K.A.B.A.M. (Formerly Known as Black Axe Mangal)

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A decade ago the existence of a restaurant like B.A.M. would have been unimaginable in London, but chef Lee Tiernan has pedigree (St. John), and London has changed. Here, Turk-ish (sourdough) flatbreads and kebabs by a British chef in Islington are prepared in a wood oven decorated with graffiti tributes to KISS et al. Tiernan closed the restaurant for much of 2020 and 2021 but has returned, a la Prince, with a new name and many of the old classics, including squid ink flatbread with smoked trout roe; lamb offal flatbread; and various well-travelled hunks of grilled protein imaginatively and judiciously seasoned.

A lamb offal flatbread and pork crackling at Black Axe Mangal, featuring flowery tablecloths
A lamb offal flatbread and pork crackling at F.K.A Black Axe Mangal
Ola Smit

Thattukada

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East Ham is home to London’s largest Kerala community, and its greatest concentration of South Indian restaurants. The pick of them is Thattukada, run by chef-owners Biju and Preeti Gopinath. Curries and roasts have a depth of flavour and spicing that belie their simple descriptions, and should be mopped up with crisp parottas or snow-white appams. But it’s the legendary fries that are unmissable: half a chicken cut into segments, then aggressively and skilfully fried with chilli and crispy onions; little netholi (anchovies) cooked and eaten whole; or battered mussels that pop thrillingly in the mouth.

Chicken fry at Thattukada in East Ham, an outstanding Kerala neighbourhood restaurant Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

Bright is the first restaurant-proper from the team behind seminal wine bar P. Franco. It sits at the base of the multi-use Netil House, near London Fields in Hackney, a light and airy space with an open bar area up front, and a kitchen responsible for some of the most satisfying and imaginative cooking in town right now. Chef Pepe Belvedere, a former P. Franco guest delivers a modern mix of new world fine-dining, as seen in a dishes of chicken hearts with XO or chilli-laden razor clams sopa di lima; and classic Mediterranean, through a regularly changing selection of fresh pasta dishes.

Sonora Taquería

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Chef-owner Michelle Salazar de la Rocha fortifies her peerless housemade flour tortillas with either vegetable fats, butter, or lard, and with grillmaster partner Sam Napier, is devoted to stuffing them with pork neck adobada; or seared, smoky carne asada, which hails from Sonora itself, the region Salazar calls home. There are superb salsas to garnish and also quesadillas, or the option to add a crunchy, cheesy crust to any taco, plus aguas frescas and micheladas. Sonora is right up there with the best Mexican food available in London. (It will leave Netil Market in September 2022.)

Hill & Szrok Master Butcher & Cookshop

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Master butcher-turned-lockdown provisioner par excellence, Broadway Market’s Hill & Szrok doubles as a restaurant and wine bar, which features just one stool-high sharing table (it doubles as the butcher’s counter during the day). When open in the evenings by candlelight, the kitchen is preparing simple, seasonal mains from prime ingredients and large joints of meat to share — 1 kilogram of cote de boeuf for £100, for example — alongside clever sides such as confit potatoes and onions cooked in stock.

Hill and Szrok butcher and cookshop, Brodway Market, east London
Hill and Szrok butcher and cookshop, Broadway Market, east London
Michaël Protin

Cafe Cecilia

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If Sessions was the most glamorous restaurant opening of 2021, then Cafe Cecilia was the hottest. And the trendiest. Since it opened in the autumn, it has maintained a steady flow of plaudits from all the coolest places — in part because of chef-owner Max Rocha’s connection to the world of fashion (father John and sister Simone are designers). However, there’s a surfeit of substance as well as style in this stark, minimalist cafe-bistro. Rocha and his staff are direct descendents of the ingredients-obsessed River Cafe, Rochelle Canteen, and Quo Vadis. Like peer Anna Tobias’s cooking at Cafe Deco, Rocha’s can be a bit beige, but it’s deserving of the attention it has received this year. Do not miss the steak and chips with peppercorn sauce, nor fruit tart at dessert.

A chef plates a dish at Cafe Cecilia. Michaël Protin

Chef Mitshel Ibrahim’s Vyner Street trattoria cannily slants mainstays of Italian cuisine to create a restaurant that feels like the London Italian that it is, rather than the Venetian bacaró that inspires it but to which it isn’t really to be compared. The dining room and ample terrace await faithfully with Roman artichokes; pillowy gnocchi fritti anointed with mortadella; carne salada paired with shimeji mushrooms alongside Parmesan; and quality rotating pastas. The tiramisu is deservedly legendary.

Drinks al fresco on the terrace at Ombra in Hackney, late October 2020 before the second national coronavirus lockdown in England in November Michaël Protin/Eater London

Roti King

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The area around Euston station is replete with no-frills, delicious places to eat. This little Malaysian basement setup from chef Sugen Gopal on Doric Way may be the best. Two pieces of freshly made, high-moisture roti canai — to eat in or take away — are best served with curry dal. That speciality costs only £4.50, though round two is likely, and a newly introduced online queueing system has added a new seamlessness to the experience.

roti canai and daal at Roti King, a classic London restaurant

Chef Ed Wilson’s hearty French Italian menu is a showcase for his own personal love of food. To eat here is to share that passion, especially now with an increased emphasis on fresh pasta and spectacular comfort food. Wines are predominantly natural and biodynamic. Illustrated wine posters, art, and curios on whitewashed brick walls also make the two relaxed dining rooms on Columbia Road among London’s most handsome and cool. Here also lie the city’s smallest and most beautiful bathrooms — among the very first to use Aesop, to boot.

Brawn, on Columbia Road in Hackney, one of the best restaurants in London

Kate's Cafe and Restaurant

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At chef Kate Armah’s outstanding East London neighbourhood Ghanaian restaurant, the sharing platter, which includes tsofi, chicken wings, kebabs, plantain, and more, is a manifestation of bountiful hospitality. Other highlights include akonfem (guinea fowl), red red (fried plantain with black eye bean stew and gari foto), and any of the soups — which come served with choice of starchy sides such as fufu, kenkey, kokonte, or rice.

Takeaway boxes on top of the counter at Kate’s Cafe, one of London’s outstanding Ghanaian restaurants
Kate’s Cafe serves some of the city’s outstanding Ghanaian cuisine
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Quality Wines

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After a refurbishment of both kitchen and premises, this haven on the Farringdon Road is back to the form that has made it one of the most essential of the city’s essential kitchens in recent years. Chef Nick Bramham’s cooking now leans more towards the Aegean, with the likes of giouvarlakia bringing herbed meatballs bobbing in avgolemono. The menu will change weekly and will travel across southern Europe, but look out for Bramham’s clever riffs on BLTs, lobster rolls, and perfectly seasoned pasta dishes after peerless gildas, before flawless sour cherry cannoli.

Pig fat cannoli at Quality Wines in Farringdon, the Eater London dish of the year in the Eater London Awards 2019 Mason Noteboom/Quality Wines

Michelin-starred Brat, which lives above Smoking Goat in Shoreditch, is named after the old English colloquialism for turbot. Grilled seafood (including whole turbot) sourced from Cornwall is the focus. Lamb from Wales, beef from the English southwest, and mostly grilled seasonal fruit and vegetables from all over are given plenty of attention, too. Chef Tomos Parry differentiates himself slightly from other grill chefs, aiming to emulate methods used in the north of Spain — namly the use of wood fire to cook his range of ingredients slowly. A comparatively classical 100-bin wine list has been organised by the team from Noble Rot, which is another way of saying it is very good.

This handsome, minimalist, blond wood-and-concrete Shoreditch restaurant is a marriage of its co-owner James Lowe’s British heritage (St. John Bread & Wine) and his many stints across the globe, including one at Noma. Lowe is a gifted chef and one of London’s foremost proponents of quality British produce. His relaxed brand of fine dining regularly celebrates mutton, game, and goat, as well as wood-fired seafood and seasonal English vegetables.

The dining room at Lyle’s, in Shoreditch Ola Smit

Sushi Tetsu

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Clerkenwell’s Sushi Tetsu might be the hardest reservation in London, in part because there are only seven seats. It also pound-for-pound serves the best (value) sushi in the city. To observe Toru Takahashi’s knife skills and to eat his omakase menu while receiving Harumi Takahashi’s gently flawless hospitality (the two are married) is to experience one of London’s most complete and completely brilliant restaurants. Send an email to receive information on how to book.

Otto's French Restaurant London

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Here is a restaurant that unashamedly and decadently revisits the past, where cooking theatrically is done tableside and one can marvel at the (traditional silverware required for the) preparation of canard à la presse (pressed duck). This is Otto’s trademark, dressed with a rich brandy-heavy gravy made from the pressed carcass of the duck and served alongside the world’s most otherworldly carbohydrate: pommes soufflées. When a restaurateur opens an eponymous restaurant, especially in the possessive, it can be narcissistic or lazy — or both. In the case of Otto’s, it could not be more appropriate.

Otto and his duck outside Otto’s.
ALL the duck, as they say.
Ola Smit

Sessions Arts Club

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Florence Knight’s Sessions Arts Club pairs one of the city’s most stunning dining rooms with one of its low-key best and cleverest kitchens. No dish better demonstrates Knight’s skill and ingenuity than the fried potato, smoked eel, and cod’s roe, which sees the eel embedded inside the carbohydrate like a smoky fish-and-chip millefeuille. Other must-tries include the squid with calamarata pasta; crab croquettes; and rabbit, cotechino, cabbage, and mustard. If a Diptyque candle became a room, then this would be it.

Dishes being carried into the dining room from the kitchen at Sessions Arts Club, chef Florence Knight’s spectacular Clerkenwell restaurant
Dishes being carried into the dining room from the kitchen at Sessions Arts Club
Michaël Protin

St. John Bread and Wine

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While the original St. John is rightly regarded as the most important British restaurant in a generation, Bread & Wine, the sister site in Spitalfields, is a better and more interesting restaurant today. If food were a religion, then this would be its church. Welsh rarebit, bone marrow and parsley salad, foie gras on toast, mussels with cider, devilled kidneys; half a dozen madeleines; and a whole roast suckling pig are classics. Lunch here is one of the purest, most heavenly restaurant experiences in London.

Welsh rarebit, liver toast, and madeleines at St. John Bread and Wine

The eagerly anticipated London debut from Noma Mexico’s Santiago Lastra in Marylebone is a modern restaurant with a very strong Mexican accent and much ambition. Kol — which means “cabbage” — recreates Mexican flavours using mainly British ingredients. Corn, chocolate, and chillies are imported, but elsewhere a highly conceptual menu sees lime replaced by fermented gooseberry; avocado leaf, which applies a sweet note to cooked beans, by the wild plant woodruff; and cactus subbed out for seaweed. Rough, earthy, house-prepared heirloom-corn tacos are unlike anything else in the city.

London’s biggest and best new restaurant openings of 2020 include Kol by Santiago Lastra, which serves Mexican dishes like this cured lamb leg tostada with fermented gooseberries and guajillo chilli
Cured lamb leg tostada with fermented gooseberries and guajillo chilli.
Laura L.P./HdG Photography

Koya Soho

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Shuko Oda’s little bar in Soho is among London’s most acclaimed Japanese restaurants. Over a long, blond wooden counter, chefs calmly and politely pass hot bowls of steaming broth containing noodles made on-site, topped with proteins like tempura prawn or smoked mackerel, or seasonal green vegetables from Sussex farm Namayasai. The specials board of small plates changes every day and exhibits some of the city’s best modern British cooking; the traditional Japanese breakfast is the most steadying in London.

Food House

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One of the comparatively recent new wave of Sichuan and Xi’an restaurants in Chinatown, Food House (風味食堂) is run by a younger generation of chefs and restaurateurs. Indeed, it might be the hippest restaurant in central London. Hordes of immaculately dressed shoppers and students gather for hot pots, whole fish in chilli oil, numbing Chongqing noodles, cumin-studded grilled skewers, and Chinese hamburgers while competing with the staff for the coolest look. This extremely trendy restaurant is a scene all of its own, but not unwelcoming; it’s perfect for either a date or a group booking.

Inside Food House in London’s Chinatown
Inside Food House in London’s Chinatown
Ejatu Shaw/Eater London

Normah's

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Chef Normah Abd Hamid and her family team offer a Malaysian comfort menu that makes the restaurant one of the best in the city from a nook of a unit in Queensway Market. Sour, hot assam pedas; roti to rival London’s King in Euston; and beef rendang or nasi lemak to go alongside. Normah’s is quaint and Normah is brilliant — this remains one of central London’s best restaurants to visit with a small group of friends; one to take out-of-towners visiting the city.

Curry prawn laksa at Normah’s in Bayswater, one of the best-value restaurants in London
Curry prawn laksa at Normah’s
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Ikoyi Restaurant St. James's

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At Ikoyi, head chef Jeremy Chan — together with business partner Iré Hassan-Odukale — looks to West Africa for inspiration but uses cooking sensibilities and techniques acquired at Noma, Hibiscus, and Dinner by Heston. Dishes such as wild Nigerian tiger prawn, with banga bisque; Jollof rice with smoked crab; and chicken efo with iru — a sauce of fermented locust beans, cassava, kale salt and preserved lemon — are unlike anything London has experienced before. As of 2022, also deemed a two-star restaurant by the Michelin guide.

Nigerian dish mushroom suya is plated at Michelin-starred west African restaurant Ikoyi, in London
Nigerian dish mushroom suya.
Tomas Jivanda

Gymkhana

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Mayfair’s Michelin-starred Indian restaurant Gymkhana is one of a few places in London that manages to straddle the line between celebrity hype and quality cooking. Tandoori masala lamb chops, chicken butter masala, and the trademark wild muntjac biryani remain stand-outs. The prices match the level of cooking and the surrounds, making the this one for special occasions.

Muntjac biryani at Michelin-starred Gymkhana, a favourite of the fashion crowd. Gymkhana [Official Photo]

40 Maltby St

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A treasure. Unmoved by the comings and goings of trends, Bermondsey’s 40 Maltby St is a 40-cover answer to the question, pejorative as it may often be: What is British food? Steve Williams is a chef’s chef — cited by James Lowe, Brett Graham, and Florence Knight in their top five in the city. Raef Hodgson of distributor Gergovie Wines — which features low-intervention styles — runs the front of house without hubris. Check Instagram for the menu, which is always going to feature in-jokes and delicious dishes such as pork schnitzel with raw celeriac, mustard, and braised potatoes, onion, and thyme, or a chestnut and brown sugar meringue.

Kaieteur Kitchen

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Chef Faye Gomes’ peerless Guyanese market stall has relocated to Castle Square following the controversial demolition of Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre next to which Gomes had traded for 17 years. For the chef’s trademark, long-prepared and slow-cooked traditional dishes like pepper pot, garlic pork, and cow foot souse, check in advance on Gomes’ Instagram. Or turn up for a surprise, to try dishes which draw on the many culinary influences and colonial legacies of Guyana: dal puri roti;pholourie; fried fish with tomato; potato, green mango, okra, and coconut curry; stewed brown chicken which, like the pepper pot, is coloured and enriched with cassareep, a liquid extraction from cassava root, as well as clove and cinnamon; and stew pumpkin.

Guyanese meat and rice at Kaieteur Kitchen in Elephant and Castle, one of the best value restaurants in central London Tomas Jivanda/Eater London

Alhaji SUYA (Peckham)

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Alhaji Suya serves some of the best Nigerian barbecue in London: superb chicken, lamb, beef and tozo — a meltingly fatty beef cut — suya, electric with Aliyu Dantsoho’s own yaji, a fierce, invigorating blend of chilli, peanut, ginger, and other secret seasonings. The beautiful smoky meat is wrapped in brown paper and served simply with chopped fresh white onions, and chunks of tomatoes. Truly, a West African-London speciality. He’s also serving kilishi, a jerky originating in Hausaland made with strips of flattened meat spread with more yaji, ground onions, and peanuts. A highly savoury, sweet, and invigorating spicy snack.

Nigerian suya and grill restaurant, Alhaji Suya, on Old Kent Road
Nigerian suya and grill restaurant, Alhaji Suya,
Michaël Protin/Eater London

Nandine - Camberwell Church St

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The second branch for this south London institution: Nandine — “kitchen” in Kurdish — is run by Pary Baban, her husband Pola, and sons Rang and Raman. During the day it serves a menu of brunch dishes, mezze, and intricate pastries. Technicoloured and abundant mezze platters served in the evening include kubba (minced beef and rice patties), onion dolma, and qawarma. Pastries like borek — made with a Kurdish pastry called galgali — and baklava are not to be missed.

A Kurdish mezze platter at Nandine Nandine [Official Photo]

The Camberwell Arms

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Over the last decade, the handsome Camberwell Arms has consistently exemplified the best of the modern London gastropub. In the week, alongside good wines and beers, a clever and chipper seasonal menu featuring dishes like Scotch bonnet pork fat on toast; or deep fried piattone beans with pesto Calabrese, or smoked skate, kohlrabi, olives, coriander acts as the forerunner to weekend’s main event, Sunday lunch. Here choose from a full menu of to-share options, including half a spit roast chicken with hispi cabbage, chicken fat creme fraiche, roast potatoes; overnight braised lamb, escarole, raisins, almond, and mint; or a grilled Megrim sole, San Marzano tomatoes, spinach, and aioli.